View Full Version : An Awesome Ammonoosuc Adventure 3/2/2010

03-03-2010, 05:13 PM
Date: March 2, 2010
Hikers: Tim, Bob, Mike and Justin
Peaks: Washington (Tim W#42), Monroe
Route: Ammonoosuc Ravine, Trail and Bushwhacks

- The trail proper was not to be found today and is not broken out.
- Following the Monroe Brook gully straight down (forsaking the official trail) and bushwhacking 330 degrees magnetic for 0.25 miles will take you to the official trail well below Gem Pool.

Let me start out by saying I almost did not go. I pushed Bob several times to move it to Friday. On Monday, the forecast for Tuesday was 98% cloud cover and a ceiling of 3000 feet. I knew that if I really did bail, Bob would send me photos of blue sky from the summits and I would be mad at myself. After getting very little sleep Monday night, I got up, and to my surprise, the OBS forecast had improved - the winds were even lighter, and they were saying a chance of the summits clearing as the wind decreased, diminishing the up-slope action. We still did not have power from the wind storm, and it was too early to fire up the generator, so I ate cold cereal by headlamp. As I drove up 93, I could spy the summits in Franconia Notch and they were in the clear. There were high, thin clouds, but no clouds clinging to the peaks. After meeting at the Highland Center, we all piled into the Bob-mobile and headed up to the Cog Base Station where we were promptly chased out. Luckily, the summer/hiker parking lot (at the Cog, below the main lot) was plowed and open for parking. As we walked uphill 150 yards to the start of the trail, the mountains were beginning to accumulate some clouds.

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Walking up Base Station Road, Climbing a gully in the Ammonoosuc Ravine

We found the start of the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail to be broken out - a good sign. After a short while, we encountered Denise and Karen (Cymbidium) coming back down. They were aborting an attempt on Monroe due to the difficulty in finding/following the trail proper, but informed us that a track appeared to detour onto the river for a while. After parting ways, we found and followed the detour on the river for a short distance, easily avoiding the few 4-foot deep holes with rushing water at the bottom. There are some nice open areas in here, which are hinted at when following the trail from above, but which were very nice to walk through. The clouds were starting to fill in the ravine, however, and the snowshoe track soon left the river to follow a series of gullies. The gullies were filled with deep powder and, remarkably, only a few blowdowns or other snags. The difficulty here was the steeps and the powder depth, but the route was obvious and there were still frequent recent snowshoe tracks to follow.

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Climbing another gully in the Ammonoosuc Ravine, The outflow of a recent slide

Eventually we came to out to the only serious obstacle - the route we were following went right up a narrow gully of maybe 40 degrees. Ordinarily, not that daunting. Knowing the powder depth we'd been through thus far gave us a pause. Of course it didn't encourage us too much to find that the gully had slid, based on the pile of snow at the run-out. I know at this point I considered turning around. I think we all either said, or at least thought, "should we turn around?" After a longer pause, Bob volunteered to test it and while it took a full 10 minutes, he made to the corner where he let us know that it leveled out. Given no cracks and no further indications that it would slide again, I went next. I quickly learned that my poles were more of a hindrance than a help, and after stowing them and using my hands, knees, grabbing the spruce, and kicking steps in with my snowshoes, I could make it up slowly, but surely. It took probably 30 minutes for all four of us to get up this 150 foot section but once past, we could see the lip of the ravine above us. The snow was quite firm here, and despite the tips of spruce we could see (and those we could not), it held all of us - not once did anyone fall prey to a spruce trap. We switchbacked our way to the top of the ravine and, thanks to Bob's keene sense of direction (or maybe it was dumb luck), we topped out right below the Lake of the Clouds hut. We used the dungeon for a gear change and snack area, and to let Geri know our progress via e-mail. To this point, Washington and Monroe were very occasionally visible through the clouds - the in-and-out-of-the-clouds part of the forecast seemed accurate. I was waiting for the "and clearing in the afternoon" part, which thankfully happened shortly after we set out from the hut and continued clearing the higher we climbed.

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Bob loosely following the Crawford Path, Mike and Justin on our heels with Monroe behind

It was definitely feeling like a March day. The temperatures were moderate and the sun was strong enough to warrant sunglasses (and sunscreen too, apparently.) As we climbed, we left some clouds below while encountering others. I wore a shell over a single wicking layer, thin glove liners + shell, but left my hat in my pocket. The wind was primarily from the N/NNE and as we ascended we were mostly in the lee of the mountain. The cobalt-blue sky contrasted with the bright white of the snow with the intense cloud formations shading from bright white to dark gray for additional wow. The cairns along the Crawford Path were visible, but there was such a huge, smooth and consolidated snowfield, we simply pointed our snowshoes towards Big George and meandered along enjoying the outstanding conditions. Bob made sure to razz me several times about my hesitation. I am certainly glad he was right!

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Attitash/Bear Peak in the distance, Up-slope cloud in the Ammonoosuc Ravine

As we approached the summit cone, we slid around to the west where the gradient is less steep. Each of us was free to pick a line to his liking. Bob preferred the gentle switchback approach while others went more directly up the hill. It got to the point of silliness, criss-crossing tracks, and probably looking like a buch of drunken sailors. The completely white summit structures were close enough now to see details and the details were uniformly covered in snow and rime. In the summer months, I think they detract from the summit's appeal, but today they looked like snow and ice sculptures instead. We crested the summit plateau around 2PM and walked through the buildings to the sign. There was an Edu-Trip person, an observer (Hi Mike!) and a handful of other hikers milling around and enjoying the 20-degree, 10mph or less conditions. The Northern Presidentials were lightly shrouded, as was the Carter-Moriah range. Wildcat appeared to me cloud-free.


03-03-2010, 05:13 PM
(continued from above)

After we'd had our fill of views and enjoyed some refreshments, all four of us began the return to the Lake of the Clouds. On the way down, Monroe continued to be in and out of the clouds. It's hard to imagine more interesting views than we had today. The closer to the hut we got, the more the clouds closed in on us. At the outset, Mike and Justin had planned to tag Monroe, Eisenhower and Pierce, but under the conditions and time constraints they opted for just Monroe (at the hut, visibility was under 100 feet.) It didn't take too much arm-twisting for Bob & I to join them for a quick up and down (very occasional views through the clouds.)

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Snow and rime covered summit structures, Racing the clouds to Monroe

With Monroe in the books, we returned to the hut and debated our return path. None of us relished the idea of going down the gully with the slide. Instead we opted to try and find the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail from the top and break that out. This was far easier said than done. The Ammo is a preferred escape route in bad weather - I've been up it twice (summer, winter) and down it twice (winter, winter) and both of the winter descents have been difficult to follow. Today we simply never found the point where the "trail" entered the woods. Instead, we followed the gully (I believe it to be Monroe Brook Gully) straight down. Powder skiers - this is a little piece of heaven right now. We plunged, slid, skidded, stepped and fell through 2-4 feet of fresh, light powder. Halfway down, I saw something rather unusual. A bat came from behind us and flew a more-or-less straight course over each of our left shoulders. I've never seen one in broad daylight, and never out in the winter.

At the bottom of the gully, it flattens out and we were suddenly in the woods. Mike forged ahead on the same bearing while Bob, Justin & I stopped for a quick check of the map and GPS. This showed that continuing on bearing 330 (magnetic) would take us to the trail in under 0.25 miles. Even with the deep snow, it was a very easy 'whack and we shortly found Mike having a snack on the trail while waiting for our return. We joined him in eating and drinking and after another 30 minutes or so we came out at the Base Station lot. Total trip time was about 7 hours 45 minutes - 30 minutes over book time for the standard 10 mile, 4200' loop.

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Looking up the gully towards LOC hut, Looking down the gully

All photos (http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/576900602vQNrdC)


03-03-2010, 06:06 PM
Wow great trip report and fantastic pictures. Thanks for sharing.

Anna LeBlanc
03-03-2010, 08:45 PM
Thank you for the great TR.The photographs were spectacular.


03-03-2010, 09:17 PM
Fantastic day and report

KD Talbot
03-04-2010, 10:06 AM
Epic, epic conditions! Glad you had such a good day out there. I hedged on going last week and did responsible things instead and boy, did I get burned! Thanks for sharing a well written TR and fantastic pictures!


03-05-2010, 02:06 PM
That was an aweasome TR! Thanks so much for sharing your adventure...